Higher Education Quick Takes
Cooking is the leading cause of university housing fires, accounting for 88 percent of them, according to an analysis released Thursday by the U.S. Fire Administration. An average of 3,800 university housing fires occur each year, causing 25 injuries and $9 million in damage on average annually.
The Christian Legal Society has settled a lawsuit against the University of Montana's law school over the latter's refusal to recognize the former as an official student organization. Under the settlement, the law school agreed not to consider factors such as the relative popularity of student organizations in deciding whether they can be recognized. The society had argued that this practice would amount to illegal viewpoint discrimination. But the society agreed not to sue the university should it be denied recognition over law school rules requiring student organizations to be open to all students. The Christian group maintains that it meets this requirement because its activities are open, but the law school in the past has disagreed because the society requires members and leaders to share its beliefs.
Ohio higher education officials on Wednesday released details of a plan to turn public universities into "charter universities," in which they could give up some state funds in return for more freedom from regulations, The Dayton Daily News reported. The first part of the plan would let all 14 state universities meet internal auditors in private. Further, Bowling Green State, Kent State, Miami, Ohio and Ohio State Universities would be freed of enrollment caps. Universities could then trade more freedom for less money. So some institutions could opt to get less money and be allowed to self-insure for workers' compensation coverage, and to set tuition by academic program. Faculty groups in Ohio have been viewing with skepticism the push away from a traditional state higher education system.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded a $600,000 grant to Indiana University and the University of Michigan to develop an infrastructure for facilitating research involving the digitized works held in the HathiTrust Digital Library, according to an Indiana press release. The goal will be to develop reliable ways for scholars to analyze huge swaths of text in the HathiTrust's holdings using computer algorithms. Google has already opened up its own vault of digitized works to computational analysis by scholars, even coining the term "culturenomics" to describe research that applies quantitative analysis to digitized literature. The HathiTrust, a consortium of more than 50 universities, does not have as many works in its digital vault as Google Books, but has taken steps to emulate that project in hope of building a more academe-oriented alternative.
Hundreds of Chicago State University students received state financial aid even though they lacked the grades needed to remain enrolled, The Chicago Tribune reported. The Tribune reported last month about Chicago State failing to enforce its rules about suspending those who fail to meet minimal grade requirements, but the information about state financial aid emerged Wednesday at a state hearing.
Executives of Spencerian College, a for-profit institution among several being investigated by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat, have not only been donating money to his Republican opponent, but have been urging employees to back the Republican, Todd P'Pool, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. One former admissions officer described a session in which employees were asked to raise their hands to indicate that they would donate to P'Pool. Under Kentucky law, it is a felony for an employer to "coerce or direct any employee to vote for any political party or candidate." Grover Potts Jr., a lawyer for the Sullivan University System, of which Spencerian is a part, said that officials may have recommended votes for P'Pool, but that nothing was coercive.
The University of Swaziland is shut, lacking the funds to operate, BBC reported. The country faces extreme shortages of funds, and it is unclear when the institution might resume classes.
The University of Vermont's former president permitted "inappropriate and imprudent" behavior by his wife in ways that undermined the university's "guidelines and values," but did not violate any laws or university policies, according to a report commissioned and released Wednesday by the institution's Board of Trustees. The report explores allegations that arose from a controversy surrounding the actions of Rachel Kahn-Fogel, whose pursuit of a relationship with a senior administrator at Vermont and subsequent admission of a longstanding battle with mental illness led to the resignation last month of her husband, Daniel Fogel, as the university's president.
The board-mandated review rejected a charge that the doctorate given to Michael Schultz, the development official who was the subject of Kahn-Fogel's attention, had been awarded inappropriately. The inquiry also found no evidence to support an allegation that Fogel, Kahn-Fogel and other officials had inappropriately spent university funds on non-university travel or expenses, although it did reveal that the officials had overspent their meal thresholds by a total of $151.
On the third issue explored during the investigation, potentially inappropriate personnel actions by the president and his wife (who had an official volunteer role as a fund-raiser), the board's report found no "violations of the law or university policy." But it concluded that the "lack of clarity" surrounding Kahn-Fogel's role at the university caused confusion and poor morale and that "presidential staffing and personnel decisions were at times based on personal preferences rather than objective performance assessment."
"All of this ran counter to the university's stated guidelines and values," the board chairman, Robert F. Cioffi, said in a prepared statement, and "to be effective and meaningful, these guidelines and values must be followed and exemplified across the university, especially by the institution's leadership. And we fell short of that goal."